Parental Responsibility Laws in Ohio

Parents can be on the legal hook for a minor child's "willful misconduct" or negligence in Ohio.

Updated by , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

It's possible for parents of minor children to face legal action when their kid commits certain kinds of harmful acts in Ohio. This kind of legal responsibility (called "vicarious liability" in the language of the law) can come from:

  • parental responsibility laws, which are state statutes created and passed by Ohio lawmakers, making parents financially responsible for their minor child's actions in a number of specific scenarios, and
  • traditional personal injury law concepts (including "negligent entrustment") which can be used to hold parents liable when their minor child causes harm to someone else.

In this article, we'll look at both sources of a parent's potential liability for a minor child's actions in Ohio.

What Are Ohio's Parental Responsibility Statutes?

Ohio's main parental responsibility statutes focus on four areas:

Who Is Considered a "Minor" Under Ohio's Parental Responsibility Laws?

Ohio, like most states, considers anyone under the age of 18 to be a minor, so the laws discussed below apply only when a child is under the age of 18.

Who Is Considered a "Parent" Under Ohio's Parental Responsibility Laws?

For purposes of the Ohio laws we're covering here, a "parent" typically means:

  • either biological parent
  • an adoptive parent
  • a parent designated the "residential parent" and "legal custodian" under Ohio law, when there's no shared parenting order in place, or
  • any "custodial parent" when no other overriding child custody order has been issued.

Note: These same definitions of "parent" are also likely to apply in liability situations that fall outside of Ohio's parental responsibility statutes; we'll talk more about this kind of non-statutory liability a little later on.

Parental Liability for Property Damage/Theft In Ohio

Under Ohio Revised Code section 3109.09, a parent can be liable for up to $10,000, plus reimbursement of the claimant's cost of taking the matter to court, if a minor in the parent's custody willfully damages property belonging to someone else.

This law applies to property damage and theft. One side note: The $10,000 limit on compensatory damages does not apply to certain acts that constitute vandalism, desecration, or ethnic intimidation (more on those later).

If a court enters judgment in favor of a board of education or school district, the court may order the parent to perform community service instead of making full payment on the judgment, as long as the school board/district agree. If a court goes this route, it must specify in its order:

  • the amount of the judgment to be paid, and
  • the type and number of hours of community service to be performed.

Parental Liability for Assault and Related Injuries In Ohio

If a minor child willfully and maliciously assaults someone in a way that's likely to produce great bodily harm, the parent of the child will be liable to the injured person, under Ohio Revised Code section 3109.10.

"Willful" is a legal term of art that means a person intends the action taken, and may also intend to cause the harm that resulted. As with property damage, a parent's liability is limited to $10,000, plus court costs.

Parental Liability for Vandalism, Desecration, or Ethnic Intimidation

As mentioned above, there are some situations in which the dollar limits on a parent's financial responsibility for a child's actions can be raised under Ohio law. Under Ohio Revised Code section 2307.70, if a minor child commits an act of vandalism, desecration, or ethnic intimidation, the person who suffers the loss can seek recovery from the offender's parents up to $15,000, plus reimbursement of court-related expenses and attorney's fees.

Under Section 2307.70, a parent and the parent's minor child have "joint and several" liability for these kinds of acts. That means the injured person can seek compensation from either the child or the parent, and either can be held liable for the full judgment.

Parental Liability For a Minor's Car Accidents In Ohio

Under Ohio Revised Code section 4507.07, a parent or guardian must sign a minor's application for a driver's license or permit.

If a minor child commits an act of negligence, or willful or wanton misconduct, while driving a motor vehicle, the adult who signed the minor's application will be financially responsible for the resulting injuries and vehicle damage.

Learn more about parents' liability for teen driver accidents.

Parental Liability Under Personal Injury "Common Law"

Ohio parents may find themselves on the financial hook for their children's actions even in situations where the Ohio parental responsibility statutes we've discussed here don't apply. This kind of liability isn't dependent on state laws. It comes under "common law" rules derived mostly from court decisions handed down over the years.

Here's the oversimplified takeaway: Parents and guardians in Ohio (and every other state) can usually be found responsible for injuries resulting from their:

  • failure to adequately supervise their minor children, or
  • failure to take proper steps to prevent their child from causing harm to others.

Depending on the situation, both the parent and the child might face legal responsibility for the resulting harm. Learn more about a parent's liability for a child's actions, and suing a child for personal injury.

Getting Help With an Injury Case In Ohio

If you're facing (or thinking of bringing) an injury-related case under Ohio's parental responsibility statutes, or any other kind of case in which a child's actions resulted in injury, you might want to discuss your situation (and your options) with an experienced legal professional. Get tips on hiring and working with a lawyer.

Make the Most of Your Claim
Get the compensation you deserve.
We've helped 285 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you